I understand the aversion to spoilers — the revelation of some key plot twist — so long as we are talking about current work, something that’s still in the cinemas, some book that’s barely hit the shelves.
But just where does one draw the line when talking about older works?
In a newsgroup I frequent, recent discussions have centered on the Oz books. Someone asked a question along the lines of “Wasn’t there an Oz book where….?” and someone else answered “Yes.” That was immediately considered a spoiler – a malicious interference with people, destroying the pleasure with which new readers will approach the Oz books.
But the Oz books are aimed at kids and those readers are not on that forum at all – which means that no spoilers have been made for THEM – and frankly, if you’re forty and you still haven’t read all the Oz books and don’t want spoilers *just in case you do* I don’t feel that’s my problem.
Then there’s the Odyssey — yes, that Odyssey, Homer’s — how can anybody, with a straight face, even talk about a spoiler for that? I read it as a child. It was my good fortune to have been steeped in the culture and literature and mythology of the old world and the history at the dawn of time. But even if you are living in a Western civilization, you will have heard of the civilization of ancient Greece and screaming “SPOILER” if someone references a poetic saga hundreds of years old simply reveals an abysmal cultural ignorance.
Just how old does a book or a movie have to be before it can be spoken about in public without someone shutting you up about spoilers? I’ve heard the cry of spoiler go up over “It’s a Wonderful Life” – but for the love of Clarence the Angel, just about everyone involved with that movie has died of old age. I should think that the statute of limitations has run out for it by now.
I just re-watched an old favorite movie, one I know practically by heart. I know the dialogue as it is uttered – know the expressions that will come into people’s eyes – know certain favorite scenes are coming up and waiting for them with eager anticipation. But it is possible to watch/read a story for the Nth time and STILL get a kick out of it…. when it is that good. This movie I am speaking about? The first time I saw it, cold, spoiler free, I cried. I cried every time I have seen it since. And the spoilers have taken nothing away from that. NOTHING.
For myself, I pledge to remain courteous about the issue, and conscious of other people’s desires to experience a movie or a book for the first time for themselves…. so long as it is a NEW movie or a book. Anything older than a quarter of a century has been around plenty long enough to have been “spoiled” by someone other than me a long time ago. If somebody hasn’t “got around’ to seeing or reading a particular elderly work of art… well… that can’t be my problem. We are all guardians of our own cultural universe – and the only way to avoid spoiler talk altogether is simply to withdraw from the real world and lock the doors behind you.
Personally, I don’t really care about spoilers. For me, the lure isn’t the destination; it’s the journey. I don’t care if I know in advance that the Butler Did It. What I want to know is How The Butler Did It, and Why. And for that… I’ll watch the story. A good story will survive any “spoiler”, any day.